Munich – Travel Review
by Richard Jones
It’s true, in Munich grown men walk the streets in lederhosen and make it look cool.
If that’s not a good excuse to visit this great city, I don’t know what is. Nevertheless, the main reason Brits are travelling to München in large numbers isn’t to see German blokes in leather breeches and suspenders. It’s to sample what they serve up serve up – beer.
Even for non-boozers, it is worth trying one of the Bavarian brews which are made according to the 1516 Reinheitsgebot purity laws. These state that all beers must contain only three core ingredients – malted barley, hops and water (yeast was unknown at the time but is now included). Apparently, the lack of preservative chemicals lessens the effect of hangovers. Which was music to our ears (and livers) when we were planning our lads’ trip to the German city.
And it’s not just the quality of the beer that’s astounding in Munich. It’s the sheer quantity of it. There are more than 180 beer gardens dotted around the place, with seating space for 180,000 thirsty revellers. These gardens are oases of convivial drinking and eating. Perfect places for people of all ages and social classes to gather, clink beer mugs and say “prost” to the city’s celebrated brews.
“Beer halls and cellars”
We visited Munich in early April. This was when the first rays of spring sun were beginning to warm the cool German air. Traditionally at this time of year the locals start to gather in these beloved gardens. Bavarians were only allowed to brew beer in winter in the early 19th Century. To keep it cool for sale in the summer it was stored in cellars along the River Isar. It was kept in the shadows of chestnut and linden trees. These shaded areas soon became popular spots for those wanting to sample the goods before taking them home.
We spent a sunny Saturday afternoon strolling through the Altstadt (Old City). Hundreds of people were sitting outside drinking, eating, laughing and generally enjoying life. Then it was on to the Englischer Garden and the Chinesischer Turm. They were bustling with people sat at enormous banquet-style tables. On sunny days, Müncheners wile the hours away in the beer gardens. But when the weather turns inclement, the action moves to the city’s beer halls and cellars.
The most famous of these, and arguably the most celebrated boozer on the planet, is the Hofbräuhaus. It’s a three-floor hall near to Marienplatz which dates back to the 16th century. Here, our group took our seats for an epic Sunday afternoon session. Swilling steins, swaying in unison to the oom-pah music and snacking on enormous freshly baked pretzels, schnitzel, pork knuckle and bratwurst.
“Cultured and sophisticated”
If you do manage to drag yourself away from the beer gardens and cellars during your stay in Munich, you will find there is a lot more to the city than just suds, songs and sausages. First of all, when booking a flight to this city, rather than doing so with a budget airline, for a similar price travellers can experience a couple of hours of long-haul luxury by hitching a ride on Singapore Airlines’ route from Manchester to Singapore.
I was lucky enough to be part of their 30th anniversary celebrations. SA has been has been flying from Manchester since 1986. I spent a relaxing couple of hours in the new Premium Economy cabin. It is decked out with new seating and comforts, and comes with speedy check-in and more meal choices.
As far as hotel choices go, you wouldn’t go far wrong with the comfortable Park Inn By Radisson Munich. It is located conveniently next to the Frankfurter Ring subway station. In a country renowned for it’s efficiency, the trains literally run to the second. The U and S subway lines are the most convenient and cheapest way to get around.
When exploring the city centre itself, I found Munich’s streets to be very open. The relatively low skyline meant I never feel closed in and rarely got lost. Some of the buildings have ‘1972’ displayed above their entrances. This is the date much of the city was deemed to be complete after a marathon of post-war building. However, Munich’s more modern structures reflect a rich, cultured and sophisticated city whose people appreciate the finer things in life.
In addition to having over 80 world-class museums, Munich can also lay claim to having the richest cultural, gastronomic and retail life in Germany. The city is so vast in its offerings that you would need a lot longer than a weekend to visit the likes of the Allianz Arena, Deutsches Museum, Nymphenburg Palace, the BMW Museum and Olympiapark.
Despite plenty of extravagant architecture around the city, most of which dates back to the reigns of the 19th-century Bavarian kings, Munich has in the past been portrayed as the strait-laced, industrious counterpart to hedonistic Berlin. Nowadays it is known as the ‘city of laptops and lederhosen’. Modern Munich is a cosmopolitan playground.
Once you visit, you’ll understand why it’s called Deutschland’s “secret capital”. Munich is the place where most Germans would live if they could. The city is the home of Gemǖtlichkeit, a not-quite-translatable adjective that means something between cosy and good-natured. But best of all, there are events all year round. Mǖncheners wholeheartedly embrace traditional festivities – none more so than the annual six-million-person beer binge Oktoberfest.
Nevertheless, we found a lot to enjoy in this attractive city even when the world-famous festival wasn’t on. The city’s motto is ‘Munchen mag dich’, which means Munich loves you. It certainly felt like it did. We can’t wait to get back and see it all again. Next time we might even go the whole hog and dress like the locals.
Singapore Airlines flies daily from Manchester to Singapore via Munich.
Fares start from just £160pp in economy, or from just £325pp in the airline’s newly launched Premium Economy class. For more information visit: singaporeair.com.
The Park Inn By Radisson Munich on Frankfurter Ring offers rooms at 60 euros per room per night including breakfast.
For more information on Munich: muenchen.de